Sunday December 17 2017

In defence of the Elders Forum of Uganda – Part II


By Harold Acemah

The Elders Forum of Uganda (TEFU) was launched in August 2015 and consists of 15 distinguished citizens, who have served Uganda for many years in various capacities, two of whom, Mr Sam Baingana and Ambassador Paul Etiang, are former Permanent Secretaries of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mr Baingana was Permanent Secretary when I joined the Foreign Service in August 1970.

The other members of TEFU are: Canon James Ogoola (chairperson), Ms Daisy Buruku (vice chairperson), Dr Stephen Akabway, Mr Henry Kyemba, Justice Mary Maitum, Mr Elly Rwakoko and Prof Francis Omaswa.

Others are Prof Maggie Kigozi, Bishop Emeritus Ochola II, Ms Ocaya Lakidi, Ambassador Bernadette Olowo, Prof Nsereko Gyagenda and Mr Richard Odeke.
For anybody in his right mind to call TEFU “an indolent pack” is uncouth, vulgar and an insult to Ugandans of goodwill. Mr Henry Mayega owes TEFU an apology!

Consultations on National Dialogue
In his words of welcome, Canon James Ogoola noted that the proposal to convene a National Dialogue (ND) in June 2018 was a joint initiative of the Inter Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) and TEFU. The two organisations have worked with key stakeholders to initiate a citizen-led dialogue to discuss, inter alia, economic, social, political and constitutional problems facing Uganda.

Recalling several tragic events, which have remained unresolved and open wounds and need healing, Canon Ogoola regretted that there must be something fundamentally wrong with Uganda, especially with Uganda’s political leaders, who do not seem to have learnt any lessons from several past mistakes made since independence.

He cited some events which should be subjects of a frank national conversation, namely the 1966 crisis; the military coups of 1971 and 1985; the storming of the High Court of Uganda in 2005; the vicious attack on the Rwenzururu king’s palace by UPDF troops on November 26, last year, and the unprecedented invasion and desecration of Parliament of Uganda on September 27.

These tragic events are symptoms of a deep-rooted malaise, which demands that Ugandans come and reason together to find lasting solutions to their problems.

The ND is also intended to widen political space. The elders were invited to discuss the above matters and consider a draft framework paper prepared by TEFU and IRCU, presented by Mr Godber Tumushabe.

The theme of the Uganda National Dialogue framework paper is: “Building a strong value system: Consolidating peace, democracy and development for equal opportunity and shared prosperity.”
The aim of the ND is to create a platform for Ugandans, in their diversity, to agree on a shared transformative and development agenda, which accelerates consolidation of peace and justice; sustainable development and shared prosperity.

The concerns and interests of the youth, who are the majority of Uganda’s population, will be at the heart of the ND. Youth engagement in the ND process will be guaranteed at five levels - ensuring youth participation in governance and operational structures of the dialogue; ensuring young people’s participation in the thematic working groups; ensuring youth participation in regional and national consultations; and ensuring effective youth participation at the national conference in 2018.

The October meeting provided a golden opportunity for elders to make an input into preparations for the ND. The elders noted that TEFU is a reservoir of intellect, knowledge and wisdom, which should be used to address national problems. Canon Ogoola promised to hold another round of consultations with elders.

In his closing remarks, former Chief Justice William Wambuzi observed that as reservoirs of wisdom, elders have many useful roles to play, such as counseling; providing guidance; educating the masses; acting as custodians of culture; acting as advocates for justice and peace. Justice Wambuzi challenged Uganda’s senior citizens to preach the “gospel of ND” without fear and support TEFU’s efforts in this regard.

A closing prayer was said by Monsignor Charles Kasibante of the Catholic Church. I returned to Arua with peace of mind and hopeful about the future of Uganda, despite ongoing shameless attempts to desecrate the Constitution by removing the age limit for presidential candidates.

Mr Acemah is a political scientist and retired career diplomat.